It’s been a busy couple weeks for me, with tech week for two casts of Grease gearing up for performances this past weekend (and one of my kids in each of the casts), watching a stack of screeners for the narratives jury for IFF Boston, and a busy trip down to Dallas to serve on the Texas Competition jury for the Dallas International Film Festival in the midst of that. So I’ve been a little swamped and thus not getting a whole lot else done around here.
So, Dallas. This year was the sixth year of this fest and the sixth I’ve trekked to Dallas to be there, and it’s always one of the most interesting and fun fests of the travel year for me. It feels a bit like going home since it’s so close to my hometown of Oklahoma City, and it certainly bears more in common with the Sooner state than it does with Seattle. I always pack much dressier for this trip, and even so I inevitably feel under-dressed at some point; this town dresses up for its events, whereas in Seattle “dressing up” mostly means, “I’m changing into my good/designer jeans and my spiffiest Chucks.”
One of the things I like most about hitting the regional fests is seeing how each of them painstakingly programs a schedule that covers an eclectic spectrum of what’s going around the fest circuit, drawing their particular audience in to see films they may have heard about, while also challenging them with films they otherwise wouldn’t get to see at all. James Faust and Sarah Harris do an exceptional job of knowing the Dallas audience their festival is there to serve, and I was impressed with the films we had to consider on the our jury. Ultimately, we gave a Special Jury Mention to David Zellner’s Kid-Thing and the Grand Jury Prize to Ya’Ke Smith’s Wolf, a searing portrait of the impact on a family when they learn their beloved and trusted pastor has been sexually abusing their teenage son for years. In certain ways, Wolf evoked Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer, which I saw at Sundance this year, but Wolf is a much, much better film in pretty much every respect (sorry, ‘strue).
This was the first time I’ve come to Dallas and not spent most of my time running around watching movies. The fest’s expectation of the jurors was that we watch the films in our competition, deliberate with our jury to determine the winners (Dallas has some pretty spectacular prizes for the winning filmmakers, which puts even more pressure on to make sure you make the best choice), and be on time in cocktail attire for the red carpet before the awards dinner. Other than that, we were free to just hang out and bond with our fellow jurors and enjoy Dallas and the fest.
I was delighted to find Sundance’s Rosie Wong and Film Society Lincoln Center’s Rose Kuo among the jurors, along with Bill Guentzler from Cleveland International Film Festival and a slew of filmmakers. With so many smart, fun people surrounding me, I couldn’t help but have a good time. We even made time for a field trip down to Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum, something I’d never found time to do on previous trips to Dallas. If you’d been watching the Dealey Plaza Cam around 2:30PM last Friday, you’d have seen a few programmers and filmmakers risking life and limb to get pictures of the “X” that marks the spot in the middle of the rather busy road where JFK was shot. Because we are nothing if not dedicated to authenticity.
And then there were the parties. Boy, does Dallas like to party.
Wednesday night, the night I arrived, was the SAG Indie Party, conveniently located right by the Hotel Palomar, where everyone was staying. The party featured karaoke, beer pong and poker tourneys, with the prize for winning each being a deliciously gaudy, Texas-sized belt buckle. Last year I took second in the poker tourney, losing on a final all-in hand. This year I redeemed myself and won. I now possess a belt buckle that I could use as a shield in battle.
Thursday many of the jurors schlepped out to Dallas foodie fave Bolsa to try out their awesome menu and even more awesome cocktails, and then went from there over to a fest party at a bar called Winstons, where there was a very “A Clockwork Orange” vibe and many surgically enhanced faces and boobs, and drinks involving cherry vodka. Fortunately the jury pack got there early and held court out on the patio, where there was a nice breeze and less crowding. And Friday night’s Dallas Film Society Awards gala was spectacular as always, packed with well-heeled Dallas socialites and film industry people. For this event, I had to drag out my “dressing up for a grown-up party” ladygarments and “cocktail” attire (actually, I ended up wearing a lovely sunset-orange dress I bought last year for Sarasota to meet a dress-code requirement for “Caribbean casual,” but when paired with a fancy-schmancy necklace it worked just fine.)
Now, the Dallas awards thing is looooong, like four hours long, counting cocktails and red carpet beforehand, so to make things more interesting we jurors decided to play a little drinking game during the ceremony, where we had to drink every time someone said “film,” “Dallas,” or “sponsor.” As you might imagine, after three or so hours we had wiped out the bottles of wine on our own table and confiscated an unused bottle of white from the adjacent table, and several of the jurors kept slipping out to the bar for vodka tonics. By the time the Narratives jury got up to the podium at the end of the night, folks were a little loopy, and one of the jurors let slip that we’d been playing a drinking game at the jury table. Fortunately, apparently everyone else in the crowd had been drinking throughout the festivities anyhow, so no one seemed to mind, they all just laughed and looked like they wished they’d thought of playing a drinking game first. Probably we started a trend and next year at Dallas the Awards Ceremony Drinking Game will be all the rage.
I had a super early flight out of Dallas on Saturday morning, so after the
MAN very nice police officer came and firmly but politely shut down the late-night party in the festival lounge, a group of us headed back to the hotel for some late-night room service and great conversation. My driver was there to pick me up at 6:15AM on the nose, an hour or so of sleep on the plane and by 11:50AM Seattle time I was back on the ground in Seattle, where I headed directly to Bellevue’s lovely Meydenbauer Center for a full day of back-to-back performances of Grease with Bellevue Youth Theater. My son Jaxon was in the middle school cast that performed on Saturday, and Neve was in the high school cast that performed twice on Sunday, so by the time we wrapped all that up at around 10PM Sunday night I was wiped. But both casts were just terrific, and I’m grateful that no flight delays kept me from being there. Thank you, DIFF, for not flying me out on American, because those bastards always end up delaying or cancelling my flights home out of DFW. I am not a fan of that airline.
Monday and Tuesday I was home with sick kids, which was just as well because I had the stack of 11 IFFBoston screeners to get through so I could get deliberations done for that fest. Now I’m cruising through this week, settling back into routine, trying to be productive amid the cooties and chaos that are a part of life in a house with six kids. I’m eyebrows deep in a script that I want to get done with and sent off to a potential producer so I can get busy cranking on a second script that I’ve been outlining with a writing partner. The sprawling Seattle International Film Festival, which kicks off May 17 for 25 days of festival awesomeness (yes, I said 25 days) is just around the corner; for press, it actually begins this Friday with a press launch that precedes two weeks of press screenings before the fest even starts. And I’ll have a couple of exciting announcements about my short film Bunker next week. And tonight I have to watch a couple of screeners so I don’t feel like an idiot talking to Michael Glawogger tomorrow. He’s in town for a screening series and Q&A at the awesome Northwest Film Forum, and I’ll be chatting him up after, so I’d better brush up.
Whew. That’s how the past couple weeks have been for me. What’s new with you?